Sometimes people are in such a hurry to find the neat stuff that they pass by the neatest stuff of all. Early Meadow Rue, Thalictrum dioicum, the tiny plant that produced these lovely blooms, often goes unnoticed and sometimes trampled by those looking for something interesting. You have to get your face pretty close to the ground to see this flower, but I would certainly classify it as interesting.
The long stamens cascade down and support a bright yellow anther. Many people are reminded of wind chimes and the way the flowers sway with even the slightest breeze supports that image. Personally, I always think of jellyfish when I watch these delicate blooms.
From a standing position, it’s almost impossible to see the flowers. I see how it can be overlooked by the casual observer. Even those who find and admire the plant, often don’t know that they’ve only discovered half of the story.
Early Meadow Rue is a dioecious plant, meaning that the male and female flower parts are contained on separate plants. This fact is missing from many common field guides and the photos only show the male flowers, so it’s understandable that so many are unfamiliar with the female half of the pair.
The female flowers are hard to see even when they’re at the tip of your nose. At Blue Jay Barrens, the female plants are greatly outnumbered by male and non-flowering plants. I knew what to look for and still had trouble spotting a female plant.
The leaflets resemble many other spring time leaves. One eye catching feature is the method in which new leaves fan out like a deck of cards as they develop. The clustered leaflets can look more like a flower than the actual flower.
The leaves are multiply pinnate, forming many branches before terminating in a leaflet. This feature usually distinguishes them from the other early spring wildflowers. There are some other species of Meadow Rues, but they come along later in the year. I’ve found that it’s always worthwhile to slow down and get close to the ground. Distance covered may be shortened, but the overall outdoor experience is enhanced.